Long before I discovered Cli Fi and wrote about it somewhere here (hope the WordPress bot picks it up) I’ve had the feeling that literature can help us understand the incredible fiction which is catastrophic man-made global warming.
Ten years of frequenting warmists has convinced me of the truth of Ben Pile’s observation about the academic world which promotes this fantasy – that its essential quality is mediocrity. Something you normally only learn at an advanced age, but which young Ben has cottoned on to quickly, is that many people with quite high IQs are quite boringly stupid.
The idea that sciency type people are lacking something gets expressed quite frequently, and in the sixties was the subject of a famous dispute between scientist/novelist C.P. Snow and literary critic F.R. Leavis , ably analysed in this 2013 article in the Guardian
One of the meagre sixteen commenters to this excellent Guardian article boasts that in the nineties he managed to do a degree in English Literature without reading a word of either CP Snow or FR Leavis, which tells us something about university literature departments, or about Guardian readers, or both. Ben is right. (with apologies to a half dozen intelligent commenters on the Guardian article.)
The problem is not that scientists don’t read books, but that university lecturers (many, or most of them) and newspaper editors and journalists and media types and educated people in general don’t read books. Or play an instrument, or sing in choirs, or speak foreign languages, or do the hundred and one things that any civilised person might have done in the past five centuries, in Europe or Asia, or the rest of the world in the past two centuries. (This doesn’t apply to our writers and readers of course, as you can verify in a thousand ways in their articles and comments.)
So I decided about ten years ago to show up the prevailing idiocy by doing a series of articles on climate scepticism in literature, starting maybe with Ecclesiastes:
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity… One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again… The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
..and following up with an article I wrote for a quite different purpose about Bad Weather in the Iliad. But let’s let the chronology go hang and start with Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
Huck is the archetypal juvenile beatnik, a hundred years in advance of his time. Uneducated, but in admiration of his friend Tom Sawyer’s superior education, he spends the first half of the book accompanying the escaped slave Jim on a raft down the Mississippi. In chapter 34 Jim is recaptured and imprisoned prior to being resold into slavery. Huck joins up with his friend Tom Sawyer and they discuss plans to free Jim.
Huck’s plan is to steal the keys to the cabin where Jim is held prisoner and sail away on the raft:
“Wouldn’t that plan work?” asks Huck.
Tom Sawyer replies:
“WORK? Why, cert’nly it would work, but it’s too blame’ simple; there ain’t nothing TO it. What’s the good of a plan that ain’t no more trouble than that?
I never said nothing, because I warn’t expecting nothing different; but I knowed mighty well that whenever he got HIS plan ready it wouldn’t have none of them objections to it. And it didn’t. He told me what it was, and I see in a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style, and would make Jim just as free a man as mine would, and maybe get us all killed besides.
When we got to the cabin we took a look at the front and the two sides; and on the side I warn’t acquainted with—which was the north side—we found a square window-hole, up tolerable high, with just one stout board nailed across it. I says:
“Here’s the ticket. This hole’s big enough for Jim to get through if we wrench off the board.”
Tom says: “It’s as simple as tit-tat-toe, three-in-a-row, and as easy as playing hooky. I should HOPE we can find a way that’s a little more complicated than THAT, Huck Finn.”
“Well, then,” I says, “how ‘ll it do to saw him out, the way I done before I was murdered that time?”
“That’s more LIKE,” he says. “It’s real mysterious, and troublesome, and good,” he says; “but I bet we can find a way that’s twice as long. There ain’t no hurry; le’s keep on looking around.”
Betwixt the hut and the fence, on the back side, was a lean-to that joined the hut at the eaves, and was made out of plank… Tom was joyful.
He says: “Now we’re all right. We’ll DIG him out. It ‘ll take about a week!”
IT would be most an hour yet till breakfast, so we left and struck down into the woods.. Tom says, kind of dissatisfied:
“Blame it, this whole thing is just as easy and awkward as it can be. And so it makes it so rotten difficult to get up a difficult plan. There ain’t no watchman to be drugged—now there OUGHT to be a watchman. There ain’t even a dog to give a sleeping-mixture to. And there’s Jim chained by one leg, with a ten-foot chain, to the leg of his bed: why, all you got to do is to lift up the bedstead and slip off the chain. And Uncle Silas he trusts everybody; sends the key to the punkin-headed nigger, and don’t send nobody to watch the nigger. Jim could a got out of that window-hole before this, only there wouldn’t be no use trying to travel with a ten-foot chain on his leg. Why, drat it, Huck, it’s the stupidest arrangement I ever see. You got to invent ALL the difficulties. Well, we can’t help it; we got to do the best we can with the materials we’ve got. Anyhow, there’s one thing—there’s more honor in getting him out through a lot of difficulties and dangers, where there warn’t one of them furnished to you by the people who it was their duty to furnish them, and you had to contrive them all out of your own head… Now, whilst I think of it, we got to hunt up something to make a saw out of the first chance we get.”
“What do we want of a saw?”
“What do we WANT of it? Hain’t we got to saw the leg of Jim’s bed off, so as to get the chain loose?”
“Why, you just said a body could lift up the bedstead and slip the chain off.”
“Well, if that ain’t just like you, Huck Finn. You CAN get up the infant-schooliest ways of going at a thing. Why, hain’t you ever read any books at all?—Baron Trenck, nor Casanova, nor Benvenuto Chelleeny, nor Henri IV., nor none of them heroes? Who ever heard of getting a prisoner loose in such an old-maidy way as that? No; the way all the best authorities does is to saw the bed-leg in two, and leave it just so, and swallow the sawdust, so it can’t be found, and put some dirt and grease around the sawed place so the very keenest seneskal can’t see no sign of it’s being sawed, and thinks the bed-leg is perfectly sound. Then, the night you’re ready, fetch the leg a kick, down she goes; slip off your chain, and there you are. Nothing to do but hitch your rope ladder to the battlements, shin down it, break your leg in the moat—because a rope ladder is nineteen foot too short, you know—and there’s your horses and your trusty vassles, and they scoop you up and fling you across a saddle, and away you go to your native Langudoc, or Navarre, or wherever it is. It’s gaudy, Huck. I wish there was a moat to this cabin. If we get time, the night of the escape, we’ll dig one.”
I says: “What do we want of a moat when we’re going to snake him out from under the cabin?”
But he never heard me. He had forgot me and everything else. He had his chin in his hand, thinking. Pretty soon he sighs and shakes his head; then sighs again, and says:
“No, it wouldn’t do—there ain’t necessity enough for it.”
“For what?” I says.
“Why, to saw Jim’s leg off,” he says.
“Everything’s all right now except tools; and that’s easy fixed.”
“Tools?” I says.
“Tools for what?”
“Why, to dig with. We ain’t a-going to GNAW him out, are we?”
“Ain’t them old crippled picks and things in there good enough to dig a nigger out with?” I says.
He turns on me, looking pitying enough to make a body cry, and says:
“Huck Finn, did you EVER hear of a prisoner having picks and shovels, and all the modern conveniences in his wardrobe to dig himself out with? Now I want to ask you—if you got any reasonableness in you at all—what kind of a show would THAT give him to be a hero? Why, they might as well lend him the key and done with it. Picks and shovels—why, they wouldn’t furnish ’em to a king.”
“Well, then,” I says, “if we don’t want the picks and shovels, what do we want?”
“A couple of case-knives.”
“To dig the foundations out from under that cabin with?”
“Confound it, it’s foolish, Tom.”
“It don’t make no difference how foolish it is, it’s the RIGHT way—and it’s the regular way. And there ain’t no OTHER way, that ever I heard of, and I’ve read all the books that gives any information about these things. They always dig out with a case-knife—and not through dirt, mind you; generly it’s through solid rock. And it takes them weeks and weeks and weeks, and for ever and ever. Why, look at one of them prisoners in the bottom dungeon of the Castle Deef, in the harbor of Marseilles, that dug himself out that way; how long was HE at it, you reckon?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t know. A month and a half.”
“THIRTY-SEVEN YEAR—and he come out in China…
“JIM don’t know nobody in China.”
“What’s THAT got to do with it? Neither did that other fellow. But you’re always a-wandering off on a side issue. Why can’t you stick to the main point?”
Why can’t I stick to the main point? What’s this to do with global warming?
Look at any article at Climate Brief or Guardian Environment and ask yourself: “What are they trying to achieve?” Why, freedom from the negative effects of climate change, of course. How? By the most complicated method possible, because, like Tom Sawyer, these are highly educated people. They’re not going to free poor people from poverty by making them richer – that would be too simple. So let’s install a hundred year plan to make the richer countries poorer, in the vain hope that badly managed temperature records will come up with a figure less than one and a half degrees in a hundred years or so. And if we have to saw the legs off 400 million Africans to save them, so be it.
“JIM don’t know nobody in China.”
No, but hundreds of millions of Jim’s cousins back in Africa do know somebody in China. And that somebody is offering to free them the Huck way, by developing them out of poverty, while we Westerners, with our Tom Sawyer-like superior education, are offering them:
the RIGHT way—and it’s the regular way. And there ain’t no OTHER way, that ever I heard of, and I’ve read all the books that gives any information about these things… and.. generly it’s through solid rock. And it takes them weeks and weeks and weeks, and for ever and ever.